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D&I: A Conversation with Tracey Wingate

ICI’s new chief of staff and new president of the ICI Education Foundation, Tracey Wingate, shares her thoughts on how the Institute and the fund industry are working toward greater diversity and inclusion (D&I).

In the past year, we witnessed a growing momentum for organizations to make greater progress in diversity and inclusion. How has ICI responded to the wake-up call on the unfinished business in this area?

In 2021, diversity and inclusion have become a key priority for ICI, and it’s a priority that is integrated throughout everything we do now.

In my role as chief of staff, I try to facilitate ways in which ICI—both as an organization and with respect to its work with members—can make greater progress within the asset management industry to increase diversity and inclusion. We have a D&I membership working group that meets quarterly to discuss current issues and initiatives and a board-level D&I group that has been very instrumental in helping to guide ICI’s D&I activities.

We are working with members who are already engaged in this issue to highlight what they are doing and to see what more needs to be done and how ICI can be a partner. We’re in a position both to facilitate what we believe makes progress and to listen to members about what they think is necessary. That two-pronged approach serves us well as we develop programs organically in house and work with the industry to develop programs that can be applied broadly.

What is the state of diversity and inclusion in the regulated fund industry?

In spring 2021, ICI published a summary of the ICI-McLagan survey of diversity and inclusion within the asset management industry. The results of the survey were not surprising. The asset management industry has been a predominantly white, male-focused industry. According to the study, women represent only 41.8 percent of the industry’s workforce while minorities make up 30.5 percent. It’s important to have these data to measure progress and to establish accountability.

Now comes the more difficult part—thinking of the intentional responses that will deliver both short- and long-term progress. You can’t expect to flip a switch, and everything changes. It is a long-term focus that requires intentional thought from senior leadership all the way throughout the organization to commit to a well-considered approach to make change. Starting at C-suite and throughout management, we are looking at the ramifications for diversity and inclusion as it relates to every action. It’s as simple as walking into a boardroom and making sure that people from underrepresented communities and women have microphones. It’s not enough to just have a certain number in the room. It’s about how that number of individuals has a voice.

Many of our members have instituted initiatives and programs that affect their workforce on a day-to-day basis to promote diversity and inclusion. As these programs continue, they will have a snowball effect. I believe this industry can be a leader in diversity and inclusion in five to 10 years.

We are firing on many cylinders, looking across the spectrum on how to increase D&I in the industry.

How is ICI realigning its activities to achieve greater diversity and inclusion in the regulated fund industry?

Reflecting on the fact that D&I is a priority, this is the first year that we as an organization developed programming to support this area. We are firing on many cylinders, looking across the spectrum on how to increase D&I in the industry.

For instance, we have really shifted the focus of the ICI Education Foundation to reflect the D&I priority. The foundation’s mission to increase financial literacy remains intact. What has changed is a realignment to focus on women and underrepresented communities. We are making partnerships with other organizations, such as Girls Who Invest and our long-time partner the Toigo Foundation, to enable those in underrepresented communities to learn about not just investing, but also about career opportunities in the asset management industry.

We also launched the Talent Connection, a pipeline initiative targeting students from underrepresented communities, at both the law school and college levels, in an effort to introduce them to career opportunities in asset management.

We also held a virtual event with Representative Joyce Beatty (D-OH), who heads the House Financial Diversity and Inclusion Subcommittee, to discuss increasing D&I in the investment management industry. She was joined by Yie-Hsin Hung, CEO of New York Life Investment Management and chair of the ICI Board of Governors, Cynthia R. Plouché, independent director at Northern Trust Funds/Northern Trust Institutional Funds, and Anne Robinson, general counsel of Vanguard. These leaders in our industry discussed how to attract and promote people who traditionally have not gone into the industry to benefit from the financial stability and equity that can be built over long careers in it. I would say to anyone reading this that, if you missed it, I encourage you to watch their compelling discussion.

You can’t expect to flip a switch, and everything changes. It is a long-term focus that requires intentional thought from senior leadership all the way throughout the organization to commit to a well-considered approach to make change.

What work is ICI undertaking in the regulatory arena to further goals of diversity and inclusion?

There is a great deal of momentum on this issue. We experienced social turmoil across the country with the events of last summer, and as a result, people can no longer ignore these issues. We have a presidential administration where these issues are top of mind and a new chair of the SEC [Securities and Exchange Commission] who is willing to take up this mantle. As a trade organization, our engagement with them on D&I is one of the most important policy issues of this year. We have been working through various ICI membership committees on components of ESG [environmental, social, and governance] as it relates to D&I and a potential SEC proposal on corporate disclosure of measures on human capital and potential SEC D&I requirements for board composition.

How is ICI working to further the goal of diversity and inclusion in its own ranks?

We continue to offer educational opportunities to our staff. This year, we held an event in honor of Juneteenth, which was declared a federal holiday in 2021. The event featured Dr. Mary Schmidt Campbell, president of Spelman College, in a fireside chat on the meaning of Juneteenth and the momentum for D&I.

In addition, throughout our day-to-day activities, we’re thinking intentionally about how our actions and policies affect D&I. When we are interviewing for positions, we are asking whether we have a diverse pool of candidates. We do the same when we invite conference panelists. As we consider return-to-office policies, we are asking how that will affect women. Thinking of these issues on a regular basis has marked a significant change for ICI over the past year.